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Macron’s chief of staff charged with link to maritime giant MSC

PARIS, Oct 3 (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron’s chief of staff has been indicted by the National Financial Crimes Prosecutor’s Office for a conflict of interest over his alleged links to the Italian-Swiss shipping company MSC, an official said. the floor.

Alexis Kohler, Macron’s closest and most influential adviser, sits at the top of the Elysée administrative pyramid, and the news of his indictment – a legal measure that puts him under official investigation in France – is a blow. .

The prosecution “confirms that Alexis Kohler, currently secretary general of the French presidency, has been indicted for illegal taking of interests,” he said in a statement.

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Macron’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Le Figaro newspaper said Macron had decided to keep Kohler in his post despite the investigation.

“(Alexis Kohler) strongly denies having committed any crime. The subsequent proceedings, to which he now has access, will allow him to prove his innocence,” his lawyer Eric Dezeuze told Reuters.

Macron’s office has previously said Kohler has at no time made a secret of his family ties to the Aponte family who founded and still own MSC.

The investigation comes after anti-corruption group Anticor filed a complaint accusing Kohler of breaching conflict of interest rules after it emerged he had family ties to MSC’s Italian owners, for which he had worked between government jobs.

MSC, which operates cruise ships, is one of the biggest customers of French shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique, builder of the Queen Mary 2, which the French government has tried to restructure several times in recent decades. .

The complaint alleges a conflict of interest based on Kohler’s relationship with MSC while working for the French state holdings agency between 2012-2014 and later as a senior official on Macron’s team. at the Ministère des Finances in 2014-2016.

Kohler left the finance ministry in 2016 when Macron resigned as economy minister. He then moved to Geneva to take up a position on the board of MSC. Nine months later, Kohler left that post to join the Elysée after Macron was elected in 2017.

Under French law, a formal investigation means that there is evidence implicating a suspect, but does not mean that the person under investigation has been charged.

The person may be charged at a later date if new evidence emerges against them, or the investigation may be dropped.

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Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Elizabeth Pineau and Michel Rose; Editing by GV de Clercq, Bernadette Baum and Josie Kao

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